Visiting Olkhon Island is just like travelling back in time, a journey back to nature. I will never forget my trip to Olkhon Island because in many ways it cleansed my soul. Olkhon Island is located in the middle of the worlds Largest and deepest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal is aptly named “Little Forest” (in the native Buryat Tongue).
My story starts as I step off the ferry (which transports you from the mainland to Olkhon island) into an untouched land, unpaved open roads, temperamental electricity and friendly faces.
I felt so at ease by the calm atmosphere and beauty, perplexed by this place that barely gets a mention in travel guidebooks. A place that other travellers pass over because it’s too far out of the way, a place that I would otherwise keep secret forever.
My days were filled with exploration, as guides and maps were few and far between. This was not a problem as what stretched before me was breathtaking and incomparable beauty. My base for adventure was Khuzhir, the main village on Olkhon Island. I found myself going for walks, long ambling strolls that would loop the hills and the empty streets, just to get a glimpse of the endless water views.
Olkhon Island is a place that time has forgotten, where iphones and MacBook’s should never be seen. This is a place of raw, natural beauty. I found myself experiencing life as the locals do, enjoying traditional Banya’s and bonding with locals over endless meals that start at sunset and go into the night . Enough about me and the rambles from my head, because I want to share with you 9 reasons to tick off Olkhon island from your travel bucket list.
1. Unbelievable Panoramic Landscapes
Olkhon Island is home to spectacular landscapes, which are second to none. It is especially true for the northern region of Olkhon Island, where you will see majestic and unforgettable panoramic views of the endless sea below (lake Baikal). It is the ideal spot for nature lovers and landscape photographers alike. Here you will find untouched wildlife, virgin forests and jaw dropping landscapes.
2. It’s a Spiritual Journey
Olkhon Island is the place to go on Lake Baikal both for Russian and foreign tourists seeking to dig deeper into their own spirituality. Home to the Buryats of ancient Mongolian origins, it is a spiritual epicenter for Shamanism and Buddhism.
This expression of spirituality manifests itself in the form of pray flags or ribbons that I found wrapping trees, poles and stones around the island. The legend says that the winds carry spirits which read your prays and wishes, that is why they are always placed on the highest point available.
3. Shaman Rock
You may have seen it in pictures but the sight of Shaman Rock in real life is one to behold. Standing tall at the edge of the west coast of the island is the ninth most sacred places in Asia. If you are a photographer or just like taking beautiful snaps, this is the place is a must visit.
4. Horse Riding along Pristine Beaches of Olkhon
Nothing beats a nice hike by foot, but since the island is so huge, therfore horse riding is a common way of transportation. An incomparable way to see and do everything the island has to offer.
By leaving cars and conventional transport behind you feel a greater sense of immersion to the culture of Olkhon Island. Pristine sandy beaches surround the island, in particular, north of the Shaman Rock. The bays are quite shallow, and in the summer it stays nice and sunny. The waters are cooler then what we are used to and they are clean enough to drink. So take some time out lay on the beach, have a dip and take a picnic as in summer months the temperature easily reaches above 25 C (77 F).
5. Stupa of Enlightenment – Ogoy Island
An eight-metre-high Buddhist stupa of Enlightenment was raised at the highest spot of Ogoy islet in 2005. A Buddhist stupa is an object of worship and means “a support for gifts”. This holy place will reach within the depths of your consciousness in such a way that the modern world no longer affects your being. The stupa of enlightenment symbolizes in the modern interpretation the goal of the Buddhist path. This goal is to understand one’s own mind. It is the place where love is expressed with remarkable power; where you can obtain harmony with the environment. This harmony is experienced by being surrounded with the living power of nature.
6. Cape Khoboy
If you have one spare day and I guarantee you do, you must visit Cape Khoboy. This is the northernmost point of Olkhon Island, Cape Khoboy captures the best of the best in terms of landscapes and picturesque views. The endless blue lake makes the peninsula stretch on forever feeding the soul. Home to beautiful red cliff faces and crystal beaches, seagulls and if you’re lucky, even Baikal seals. From the earliest times Cape Khoboy was considered to be a sacred place and served for performing religious rites. This magic and intimidating beauty of this place will excite your spiritual emotions.
7. Khuzhir – The local town
Khuzhir is the main village on Olkhon Island. There are only a few thousands inhabitants, making it a peaceful place. Khuzhir is located close to the shores of Lake Baikal where the ferry docks and the adventure starts.
Khuzhir is where you can find food, drink, accommodation and festivities. Some locals offer vegetables for sale straight from their garden. Every Sunday there’s a market on the main street, where local people sell handmade items and fresh food.
8. Kayak or quad bike around Olkhon Island shores
The best way to experience the whole island is to do it by bike or kayak. Due to the size of the island and the experiences to be had all over, there are different modes of transport that amplify the experience.
Bikes are very common on Olkhon Island as the unsealed roads and isolation of the island make for a bike friendly environment. Bikes can be rented at Khuzhir averaging $10 a day.
For an even better experience, hire a guide to take you around to show you what’s so special about the island. Guides speak a multitude of languages.
Kayaking is easy and open to people of all skill levels, so grab a kayak and get out there. Additionally if you would prefer guides and lessons are also available in Yurt-Camp, located 5 km north from Khuzhir village. This is not to be missed. Alternatively if kayaking and biking doesn’t give you enough adrenaline, you can rent a quad bike to satisfy your adrenaline desires.
9. Visit a Buryat village
You will learn the peculiarities of past and present life of the local Buryat people and their traditions. You will see their traditional housing, furniture, their everyday and holiday clothing, traditional dancing and singing in the Buryat language. You will also be treated to traditional dairy dishes of the Buryat people.
For information about tours on Olkhon Island , feel free to get in touch.